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Snake plant blooming? Mother in law’s tongue plant flowers

Seeing a Snake Plant blossom is usually a rare event. You can own a Mother In Law’s Tongue for years or even decades, and never know it can produce flowers. And then surprisingly on one fine day you might see the plant blooming. Let’s see in this article why the Sansevieria blooms, when does it do that, what do the flowers look and smell like and can you make it bloom intentionally?

Photo credit: Cely Bee

Snake plant flowers

Snake plants make a perfect houseplant. You can leave them for months during the winter, while going on vacation, with no care and they would do just fine. And, there are so many types and varieties to choose from. Snake plant or Mother in law’s tongue is indeed a flowering plant. Though encountering these flowers is extremely uncommon, these hardy, ever-present houseplants can sometimes flower. The only exception is a group of Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Hahnii’ aka. Bird’s nest plants, which don’t bloom. 
The name Snake plant usually refers to Sansevieria Trifasciata (Dracaena Trifasciata). However, most of the plants in Sansevieria genus including different cultivars of Trifasciata rarely flower.

What do the flowers look like?

When the mother in law’s tongue plants bloom, the flowers grow along tall and erect flower stalks or spikes. These flower stalks can grow as high as 3 feet (app. 1 meter) tall and are strewn with small flowers. Each stalk can produce dozens of tubular flower buds that resemble honeysuckle or lily flowers. They are narrow-petaled and grow in clusters. And the plant can seldom have more than one flower stalk. Some flowers can grow at the base near the soil line. Few varieties of Sansevieria don’t even have flower stalks, instead the flowers directly grow out from the base in big clusters.

mother in laws tongue flowers

Depending on the variety of plant, there are all kinds and colors of flowers. The flowers of Sansevieria Trifasciata are usually cream, greenish white. Most common colors are creamy white, light green, light yellow, white with a hint of lavender or mauve. Some species even produce bright red flowers.

Although these flowers are slender, elegant and beautiful, they are typically not sturdy enough to be used in flower arrangements. It’s best to just enjoy them where they are.

Fragrance of the Snake plant blossom

The fragrance of snake plants flowers is not inconspicuous. You can smell it as soon as you walk into the room. These blossoms are richly fragrant and have a pleasing smell. This unique aroma is difficult to put into words and furthermore it is distinct for different species of Sansevieria. For instance, the chemical composition of the Sansevieria Trifasciata Laurenti flower scent includes approximately 69 unique compounds such as esters, alcohol and aldehydes. And the chemical composition of the fragrances of flowers of Sansevieria Trifasciata is very different compared to that of Sansevieria Cylindrica. The fragrance is especially strong at night. The blossom closes during the daytime and opens again after it gets dark.

Each flower produces ample amounts of nectar. This sweet-smelling sticky nectar can trickle down the stem and shine like beautiful dew drops. Though it looks good, sometimes it can make a mess. To avoid this, you can put paper towels around the pot during the weeks of blooming.

The strong smell of flowers and the presence of sweet nectar frequently attracts pests. So, if you keep the plant outdoors during this time, it will surely invite a lot of bugs. If you have your plant potted in an indoor pot, it’s better not to take it outside, especially during the blooming period.

snake plant flower
Sansevieria cylindrica flowers: Photo credit- Mokkie / CC BY-SA

When do the Sansevieria plants flower?

Blooming a snake plant is a rare occasion and most probably won’t happen more than once in a year. It usually happens in the springtime, and the blossom can last for a few weeks. Orange berries often develop after the flowers. Although the plant can flower every year, it’s really hard to predict when it might bloom.

The plant will never produce flowers on a rosette that has previously flowered. Every time it blooms, flowers grow on a new stalk. So, after the blossom has died down, you can cut off the stalk from its base. This will help to maintain the neat and tidy appearance of your plant.

What makes the plants bloom?

Although snake plants are tolerant and can survive harsh conditions, it may not bear flowers under these circumstances. There is no information available regarding the exact necessary conditions for the plants to blossom. Some plants don’t flower even after caring for decades. On the other hand, few can blossom every year in spite of frequent neglect. In fact, a little neglect often seems to make them thrive. It might sound counter-intuitive, as many people want to be nice and attentive to their plant babies. But snake plants are unusual from many other houseplants in this regard. They need less maintenance overall. Showing them the sun once in a while and infrequent watering especially during winters can work great. Having said that, following factors might help your plant grow healthy and produce flowers.

Age

It isn’t precisely known if the plants need to be of certain minimum age in order to bloom. Anecdotal cases show that even smaller, couple years old plants can flower annually. However, the older the plant gets, the better are chances of flowering. Mature plants with optimal growing conditions are more prone to flowering. Some plants won’t bloom in the first season after they are moved to a different climate.

Pot condition

It is often said that snake plants produce flowers when they are “mildly stressed”. But what does this mean and what’s the logic behind this? When these plants are left on their own, with little water and plenty of bright light, they spread quickly and can rapidly become root-bound. When the plant has absolutely no space to generate new shoots, it tries to propagate itself by producing flowers.

Although such conditions of overcrowding theoretically seems to stimulate the plant to flower, it doesn’t guarantee that your plant will bloom if kept pot-bound. Besides, there can be numerous reasons such as species, watering, soil, location, warmth, overfeeding which makes it difficult to pinpoint the reason.

Another thing to keep in mind is, each rosette of a snake plant can bloom only once. So, to have blooms every year, one must provide conditions that allow these plants to grow. If it’s not possible to grow them outdoors at a normal pace, re-potting will help the new pups easily come up and don’t spend time under the soil trying to find a way out.

Water

Sansevieria plants are succulents and have the ability to store water in their leaves. So, they don’t require watering too often. You can normally water them once in a week. In winter, they can survive for months without any water. During the growing season – typically spring through fall – make sure to water them thoroughly to give enough moisture for fast development. Let the soil dry out completely before watering again.

A snake plant growing outdoors in a tropical region doesn’t need anything more than rain to sustain. There’s no problem if it rains frequently on it, as long as the soil is fast-draining and roots are not drenched in water all the time. Snake plants also need loose soil and pots with drainage holes.

Light

Bright light is best suited for the mother in law’s tongue plants. It doesn’t have to be direct sunlight. These plants do great in a well-lit room. You can place them in your window or in a corner of a room. Although they can tolerate some direct sun, it is suggested to protect them from full sun, particularly in the summer afternoons.

Temperature

Sansevieria are tropical plants that are native to Africa and South Asia. Therefore, they cannot handle freezing temperatures. During the time of winter, move and keep them indoors if possible. After the last spring frost, you can move them outdoors again and place them in a partly sunny location. If the winters in your area are not very harsh, the snake plants can live outdoors year-round.

Soil

Because snake plants are not fussy about soil, you can use a DIY soil-based medium or even a ready-to-use potting mix. A potting mix intended for cacti and succulents works well. You can put compost or manure in the soil to provide the plants nutrients and promote the growth of microorganisms. Fertilizer can also be used once or twice a year.

Will the snake plant die after flowering?

Sansevieria are not monocarpic, which means they won’t die after flowering and setting seeds. The flowers are very unlikely to hurt your plant.

Conclusion

Plant owners of snake plants (mother in law’s tongue) are often taken by surprise by the appearance of flowering stalk. When it happens in springtime, it’s a real treat to see. Although the blooming habits of this plant are unpredictable, with patience and diligent care you may increase the odds of it happening.

Enjoy the floral show if your plant happens to have this beautiful blossom!

References and images:

  • Rivers, Echevarria, Rodriguez. Chemical Composition of the Fragrance of the Flower of “Sansevieria Trifasciata Laurenti” by SPME/GC-MS: Perfume Applications
  • Main featured image: Photo by Mokkie / CC BY-SA

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Yvette C. Brown

    I have owned my snake plant for 30 years and it has only produced a flower twice about 10 years between each blooming.

  2. Jill Ledet

    1st ever my snake plant is flowering I may have to transplant it. I have never seen this ever in my life. Had this plant for years. It’s gotten pretty big already transplanted once.

  3. Sparkler

    Well what a surprise. After giving my plants a quick care check today I noticed that there was a foreign body in the middle of my snake plant pot. After a quick Google who knew that sansiveras although rare can infact produce flowers

  4. Donna

    I was totally taken by surprised to find my young snake bloom, with not 1 but 2 flower stocks!

  5. Barbara

    We were surprised to see, what we thought was a weed, growing in the middle of our plant. Having looked up the plant found that it was a flower stem and we are looking forward to seeing it bloom. We did not realise that the plant produced flowers. A lovely surprise.

  6. Olga

    I have many snake plants grown from the original leaf I was given years ago. It took 25 years to see it bloom. Since then, I’ve had two additional blooms and a fourth today as I speak. I remember the intoxicating scent from my chidhood when my girlfriend’s mother had a blooming plant.

  7. lydia

    A sweet surprise my snake plant has 3 stalks and i had no idea they bloomed.

  8. hurley

    I planted my snake plant for a year and I see it bloom. What a surprise in my part here in the Philippines.

  9. Jill

    I have had mine for 26 yrs. This is 1st time it flowered . 3 different stalks!

  10. Kyle Rothgeb

    I’ve had two giant mother-in-law snake plants and I keep them outside in the full sun every summer and bring them in in the winter. I’ve been doing this for 20 years the last eight years both of them have flowered every year. It’s good to know that I’m doing everything OK. I wonder if only female plants bloom?

  11. Barbie

    My snake plant is a 3 generational. My mother only saw it bloom at the time of a person’s death. I had it for 7 years before it bloomed. It has bloomed at least once every year. I think it is because I started watering my plants with leftover veggie water.

  12. george

    My neighbor gave me his snake plant 2 years ago because it was getting some root rot after he left it outside (Seattle, WA). I took it, trimmed off the rot and repotted it. I had heard that in order to stop the Snake plant from growing too tall, you could snip the point of the leaves… so that is what I did. Never had a this kind of Dracaena before, so I was surprised to see lots of new ‘babies’ coming up at the bottom of all the old leaves. That in itself probably has added more than doubled/almost tripled the amount of individual plants growing out of the soil.

    This year I was surprised to have 7 flower stalks start coming up at the end of May, they were blooming by the beginning of July. A very interesting, but not unpleasant fragrance that filled my apartment. Two more flower stalks came up and just finished flowering this last week (in areas that hadn’t had flowers in July) and I’m also seeing more growth in some of the leaves (stalks?). Never used any fertilizer or really do much with my plants and rely on sticking my finger in the soil to know when to water.

    Pretty cool plant, I’m really wishing that I had gotten one of these plants years ago… although they really get heavy when you put rocks in the bottom of the pot due to how top-heavy they are. Mine is in an 11 inch pot and perhaps in the next couple of years I will split it into two parts.

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